How to find a Job in the NHS

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Finiding a job in the NHS

You most probably have seen the numerous posts and concerns cropping up across various social media about whether or not there are still jobs to be found in the UK. To find a job in the NHS is not as difficult as you may think, but it’s a valid concern. What with the increased amount of doctors applying for exams such as PLAB every year, you can only sit and wonder how long it will be before everything becomes saturated.

While there is no sign of that occurring anytime soon, there has been anxiety related to the process overall as when one hears of such a shortage, you could only expect to believe that hospitals would be banging on your door to take you in. With such a shortage, how can there not be droves of desperate HR’s waiting to hand you a job? If only it were that easy!

Where are the NHS jobs?

Yes, there are jobs, and, yes, there is a massive need for doctors all across the UK, but you have to be practical when it comes to applying. Patience is still required, and you need ensure you are putting your best application forward. We’ve found that the following concerns ail most of those applying:

  • Not hearing back from hospitals after applying
  • Not finding jobs in the areas you want them to be in
  • Not finding the levels/positions that you want to apply for

So let’s discuss how to tackle each scenario.

I applied — weeks ago, and I’ve heard nothing!

An extremely common situation. You spent so much time and effort to put together a strong application- and have gotten no reply. It can be very frustrating. Let’s talk about the best ways to approach this:

  • Check the closing date of the application.
    • Often times when you are in a rush to apply, you don’t take into consideration just when the application will close. If the hospital is still accepting applications for the post, it would be unlikely that they would be contacting you before that time. Typically you hear back 2-4 weeks after the closing date, but if the post has received many applications, it can be as long as 6-8 weeks.
  • Make sure you’ve answered all the questions in the application appropriately to the job description.
    • While NHS jobs affords you the luxury of keeping a set template that you can send out to many hospitals (with some exceptions), if you don’t tweak the application according to the description outlined by the hospital, you may not hear back. It is very important to go through the job description and person specifications of every post that you apply to and then to make certain that you application fulfills many of the things they are looking for.
  • Sometimes hospitals just don’t reply.
    • I know that isn’t much of a reason to not at least say why they’ve decided to not take you into consideration, but the simple fact of the matter is that some HR’s just don’t send out any sort of follow up or feedback information after you’ve had an interview with them.
  • You aren’t selling yourself well on your application.
    • Some of us are quite humble when it comes to talking about achievements or accomplishments, but this is not the time to shy away from mentioning things that can help you stand out. Again, make sure that what you mention is relevant to what you are applying to, but definitely talk yourself up. That being said, don’t lie on your application thinking that no one will follow up. If you need an idea of how best to do so, check out creating the perfect CV.
  • Explain your past duties and tasks completely.
    • I’ve noticed that many times, in the sections on the job application, people just highlight their role in their hospital as a house officer or during internship, or whatever they’ve been doing before they joined the NHS, but as you applying for posts where there are individuals have little to no idea of how things work in your country, mention what you were tasked with and how you worked to accomplish the things set before you.

I can only work in — region due to family restrictions/personal reasons/etc

This is a real concern for many, which can significantly lessen the range of jobs for which you can apply for if you wish to limit yourself to a certain geographical area for reasons that are out of your hands. You need to be really diligent about scanning through the applications available for your region, and you are likely to need a really strong and solid application if you are applying in more competitive regions such as in London. It will also take a little longer for you to hear back as the volume of applicants will be much greater in heavily populated areas where more people are likely to apply. Conversely, you may be looking to move to a smaller town that has limited available posts due to the overall population.

I can’t find the right kind of job for me!

Let’s first talk about the level of jobs and what they all mean. There are 3 levels of doctors in the NHS:

  • Junior grade
  • Middle grade
  • Consultant/Senior grade

Keeping this in mind, it’s always better to start as a junior grade if you don’t have any prior NHS experience, even if you’re experienced back home or have completed a post graduate qualification. That doesn’t mean you have to start at a junior grade, but the reason for this suggestion is so that you can get an idea of the work environment and healthcare system in the UK before being burdened with more responsibilities. You can always apply for a middle grade post after working as a junior grade for a few months.

The job advert titles for JUNIOR GRADE doctors are as follows. You should try any of the followings in the job search terms.

  • Foundation Year 1 (FY1)
  • Foundation Year 2 (FY2)
  • CT LAS (CT 1/2)
  • ST LAS (ST 1/2)
  • Senior House Officer (SHO)
  • Junior Clinical Fellow
  • Clinical Fellow (CT/ST-1/2)
  • Trust Doctors (FY2, CT/ST-1/2)
  • Junior Specialty Registrar

Don’t get too caught up with person specifications so rigidly or whether they ask for NHS experience. You can easily get a job at CT/ST 1-2 level with just internship experience, but take it all in stride.

Keeping in mind all the ways you can search for a post, after which you should have no trouble finding many jobs to apply for. Don’t get discouraged easily about locating what you want, and don’t apply for jobs you know you won’t take. For instance, don’t apply and interview for posts in surgery if you know you want to do medicine because you feel desperate and ‘want to get anything’. Patience is key in obtaining a job.

level of non training jobs

Have you check out our FREE course where we’ve gone through the entire process of applying step by step? We offer tips and advice on how to maximize your application that we are sure you will find useful. You can find our courses under our ‘Academy’ tab or at this link.

NHS Jobs vs Agencies

This is the question that always comes forth when people start applying. While it is ultimately your decision what route you wish to take, it’s a good idea to know what the options are. NHS jobs are currently the main website from which you can apply for jobs for yourself in the manner that we’ve laid out above. You can go through posts, preferences, person specifications, and apply on your own terms. When you get shortlisted, you have direct communication with the HR and can ask them all the necessary questions related to your work, salary, needs, etc as we’ve laid out in our post about finalizing your job.

Often times, when you join many groups on social media, you become known to agencies, who then contact you and lead you to believe that your only option in order to secure a job in the NHS is via their methods and services. I even made a post about the entire affair after many individuals contacted me with their concerns:

finding a job in the NHS facebook post

The comments were filled with experiences individuals had with agencies, many of whom were told as I had outlined above, that they were not qualified to hear back from any hospital as they did not have enough experience. Even after the interjection of an agency, they too could not respond when someone mentioned they’d heard the same from their company:

finding a job in the NHS vs agencies

Now I’m not here to bad mouth agencies, but rather I’d like to lay it out for the record that one can do all of these things themselves and does not need to rely on someone else. When it comes to something as precious and important as a job that will make your career, why leave it to someone who has never been in the same situation as you? I was disturbed by the number of people who’d informed me that they were often put into situations where they could not negotiate or get out of the contract because they’d left everything in the hands of an agency, and had simply signed on the dotted line. Let’s go through some pros and cons:

Pros of NHS jobs:

  • Can choose from a wide variety of jobs and modify search as needed
  • Can go through person specifications and job description and adjust application as necessary
  • Have direct communication and contact with HR and Trust recruitment

Cons of NHS jobs:

  • Have to apply for jobs yourself
  • May have to wait to hear back depending on the closing date of application

Pros of Agencies:

  • May be able to help you find a job if you have limited options in regards to location
  • Will apply for jobs for you

Cons of Agencies:

  • No direct communication with the hospital’s HR or recruitment
  • Many apply from their pool of jobs and have limited options
  • If you have already applied via NHS jobs, they have even more limitations on applying for you as they often apply via the NHS jobs website as well
  • While they don’t charge you a fee, they do charge a fixed to variable rate percentage (depending on the agency) of your first-year salary as a finder’s fee for putting you in the post to the hospital. While this doesn’t directly affect you, the cost put into bringing you to the UK has made situations difficult for some IMGs who have not been happy in their post and then found that they could not easily leave due to this fee being paid
  • They will often tell you you need more experience than what you have because either they don’t have a pool of those jobs available in their reserve, or they wish to make more money based on the percentage they get back from higher salaried posts

I’m sure I’ll hear back from many about what I’ve listed above, but again, as I’ve said before, I am only listing what I have seen myself, hear from hospital’s HRs, and been told by those who have gone through it themselves. I am sure many individuals have applied via agencies and done just fine, but I just want to leave this topic on one note- if you are being constantly messaged and chased by an agency to apply through them, do you think it is more to their benefit or yours?

How to find a job in the NHS

Let’s summarize the steps of finding a job in the NHS:

  1. Make a good NHS jobs profile

    Everything boils down to how you have presented yourself in the NHS jobs application. You need to make a good NHS jobs profile in order to stand out to the HR team and for that – please follow the article – How to apply for jobs in the NHS

  2. Find appropriate job advertisements

    If you search with “Foundation Year 2” in the NHS jobs site, you may find only 10-12 jobs or less. Because jobs at this level can be advertised as trust grade doctor, FY2, LAS, Junior clinical fellow, SHO, etc. Improve your search combinations and use the favorites option of the NHS jobs site.

  3. Tailor your application according to the advertised job

    A common mistake by many IMGs is that they make one NHS jobs profile and apply to 100 jobs without making any changes to it. People have applied to medicine, surgery and gynae jobs with the same word-to-word application and wondered why haven’t they got a callback! Please don’t. Read the person specifications and job description and tailor your application somewhere to highlight that you have gone through those.

  4. Keep an eye on the closing date

    Every job advertisements have a closing date. They will not start calling for an interview just because you have applied. Keep an eye on it – mark on your calendar and wait at least 3-4 weeks AFTER the closing date to expect a call. If you are really inclined about a job and closing date has passed and still you have not heard from them – contact the person to contact asking whether you were shortlisted or not.

  5. Be patient

    This is almost established among IMGs in the UK that it requires at least 3-4 months to get your first job. Please be patient and keep looking for NHS jobs and keep applying.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve applied for a post and got called for the interview. Now I see it needs more experience than what I have. What should I do?

If this is a post that you would otherwise take, person specifications aside, still interview for it. You never know if you’re just what they’re looking for, and there is no harm in gaining some practice from the interview, especially since it is a post you would take anyway. And you never know- you may just get a callback and be happy to take the post. If that doesn’t happen, you can still get some great feedback from the interviewees, and learn for your next interview.

I’ve accepted a job offer and CoS has been issued. Can I reject the offer now?

This would be extremely unprofessional of you to do so and it is not recommended unless there are extenuating circumstances that would prevent you from continuing in the offered post. Simply having found a better offer does not constitute as a valid reason. This is what GMC’s Good Medical Practice has to say about it:gmc ethics

I found a job but I don’t know anyone working there. How can I learn more about it?

Occasionally even after asking in different forums, it’s hard to find someone else who is working in the same area or hospital that you hope to soon start in. That’s why we’ve discussed the ways in which you can know you’re choosing the right hospital.

Should I do a clinical attachment?

It’s entirely up to you. A clinical attachment isn’t necessary to get a job in the UK (unlike in the USA), so if you have the time and money for it, you can do one. Most attachments come with a fee, very few are free, and you will need to contact the hospitals you are wishing to observe in to ask about their application process.


We really hope that we were able to alleviate some anxiety related to the entire process. The entire road to the UK is definitely one with its ups and downs, but anything that can lessen the stress is always welcomed. If you still have some concerns, hopefully, our video on the NHS jobs and Interview will help!

Good Luck!

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